GRENADA WINS GOLD
By STEPHON NICHOLAS Tuesday, August 7 2012
After seeing Njisane Phillip and Jehue Gordon miss out on medals earlier in the day yesterday, all eyes turned to quarter-miler Lalonde Gordon in the men’s 400 metres final at the London Olympics.
Trinidad and Tobago has earned a medal at each Olympics since 1996 and the 23-year-old from Tobago ensured that trend continued, clinching the bronze in an unprecedented Caribbean 1-2-3 finish in a new personal best time of 44.52 seconds.
Nineteen-year-old Grenadian Kirani James followed up his gold from last year’s World Championships with a blistering 43.94 seconds performance to win Grenada’s first Olympic gold medal. It was also a new Grenada national record for the phenomenon whose rise to international stardom continues.
Luguelin Santos, 19, of Dominican Republic took the silver in 44.46 seconds as the Caribbean dominated the podium.
Running out of lane four at the Olympic Stadium, Gordon got a decent start out of the blocks as James quickly took control of the race. Heading into the straightaway, Gordon trailed James considerably in about fifth place before pumping his legs in the final 80 metres. With the nation urging him forward, Gordon began to move past his rivals while closing in on Santos. The Dominican Republic athlete held off his late charge, however, sporting enthusiasts throughout the country applauded Gordon’s bronze medal performance.
“Speaking after the race, an out-of-breath Gordon expressed satisfaction with his effort.
“I (am) proud... I didn’t run the back stretch like I did yesterday (in the semi-finals) but I finished strong and I am happy about my place. It was a good race,” Gordon declared.
The TT athlete also paid tribute to his Caribbean neighbour for keeping the gold in the region.
“It was an impressive performance. He’s a wonderful athlete and I respect him,” he said of James.
The Grenadian, who made history for the tiny island of Grenada, was understandably overcome with emotion for bringing not just any medal but the very best to the Spice Isle.
“I am very happy and very proud for my country and everyone that is associated with my country,” James declared. “There is no word to describe the feeling right now.”
Meanwhile, praises poured in for Gordon who maintained a 16-year trend of medalling for TT at the Olympics.
Ian Morris, the last national 400 metres runner to come close to an Olympic medal after Wendell Mottley, paid tribute to Gordon and the rest of the Caribbean sprinters.
Morris, who was agonisingly pipped to fourth place at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, was in a joyous mood when contacted by Newsday yesterday.
“Congrats to the Caribbean athletes. It was a race I watched and it was exciting. Lalonde, if he had a little more ‘juice’ he would have got the silver but it was a job well done,” Morris declared.
The former World Indoor silver medallist was also delighted with the effort of James who not only became the first athlete from the Caribbean to break the 44-second barrier but he also bettered Morris’ 44.21 Caribbean record run at the 1992 Olympics.
Gordon’s cousin, Natoya Johnson, who lives in Tobago was in an ecstatic mood yesterday following her relative’s feat.
“There is a heat that is rushing through my body, my stomach is bubbling and I have goose- bumps...I’m just overjoyed,” she said.
Liming on the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain yesterday afternoon, Wayne Nelson, Anthony Sylvester and Dean Andrew were all talking about Gordon’s race and all believed the silver was within his grasp. The trio were all in unison, though, that all of the TT athletes who qualified for their finals have made their country proud.
“Despite not winning a medal, sixth place means you’re the sixth fastest in the world,” Nelson declared, referring to 400 metres hurdles athlete Jehue Gordon and Kelly-Ann Baptiste, a finalist in the women’s 100 metres race.
The Twitter world was also abuzz following Gordon’s bronze medal performance with fans and other athletes congratulating him.
Olympic 100 metres finalist, Richard Thompson, who won two silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but finished seventh in London, hailed the Lowlands resident.
“(The) original Mad Man Gordon! Thank you for that Bronze. Trinidad needed a medal (badly),” Thompson tweeted.
Cyclist Njisane Phillip was also quick to congratulate his fellow Olympian via twitter, saying “Great job Gordon, great job!”
Earlier in the day, Phillip was beaten in straight rides in the semi-finals and third place ride-off to place fourth in his historic Olympic debut.The Siparia native was brushed aside by eventual gold medallist Jason Kenny of Great Britain in the semis and went under to Australian Shane Perkins in the battle for bronze.
It sealed a fourth place finish for the 21-year-old Phillip who not only captured the hearts of the TT public with his speed and skill but caught the attention of the world.
Former World Junior champ, Jehue Gordon, was also expected to contend for a medal in the men’s 400 metres hurdles but came in sixth in a time of 48.86 seconds.
Felix Sanchez of the Domincan Republic, the Olympic champion of 2004, ran his best time for the year (47.63) to snatch the gold ahead of United States’ Michael Tinsley (47.91) and favourite Javier Culson (48.10) of Puerto Rico.
It was a disappointing performance from Jehue who did not come close to his personal best and national record of 47.96 seconds which he produced in the semi-finals on Saturday.
The focus now shifts to the women’s 200 metres semi-finals where Semoy Hackett and Kai Selvon will be competing. Hackett, in heat two, stopped the clock at 22.81 seconds yesterday to take second place behind Allyson Felix of the US who timed 22.7 seconds. Selvon, in heat four, crossed fourth in 22.85 seconds to advance as one of the “fastest losers”.
There was no such luck for Cleopatra Borel in the women’s shot put as a commendable career nears its end without an Olympic medal. A 13th place finish in the qualifying rounds with a throw of 18.36 metres was .09 metres short of a place in the final. The knowledge that this is likely the 33-year-old’s last Olympics and knowing how close to a place in the final she was may have been too much for Borel who broke into tears.